UCL News


Seven Questions with Nii Cleland

27 September 2018

Nii Cleland is a UCL alumnus with a Technology Entrepreneurship MSc under his belt.

Nii Cleland

He is also co-founder of Flair, a football app which he started with three friends and the support of UCL Innovation and Enterprise.

Tell us more about your business:

Flair is the social network for youth football players, aimed mainly at ages 10-18. We put their journeys into the spotlight by tailoring features to the needs of the everyday youth football player.

On the app, players can create graphics of their performances across the season and share them with their followers, alongside photos, videos and written posts.

They can also build a player profile with their match stats, playing positions, favourite boots and more, as well as earn achievements over time (e.g. the "Passmaster" achievement for making 10 assists across a season).

What makes it so important (and interesting)?

For every Harry Kane, there are millions of boys and girls for whom playing football is their greatest passion, and a huge part of who they are.

These young people yearn to share their football journeys with others - whether it's the substitute seeking praise for her last-minute winner, or the goalkeeper seeking consolation for his side's penalty shootout defeat.

Yet all the attention seems to be on the pro game, with endless websites, apps and tv channels dedicated to analysing professional players' every move.

At Flair, we are on a mission to provide every young player with a platform to share their own football journey and discover and follow the journeys of other players like themselves

What has been a personal highlight so far?

Going live on the app stores earlier this month. It was so fulfilling seeing all the new users signing up for Flair after 18 months of hard work. You can find the link to download Flair here.

Explain some of the challenges involved in working on a business.

When people ask me what our biggest risk is, I usually say 'hiring the wrong people'. That's because every hire we make, especially in the early days, will have such a huge impact on our chance of success - our team is so small that everyone more or less heads up their own division of the business and has a huge responsibility.

Another challenge has been fundraising. We have chosen to raise funds through angel investors rather than through venture capitalists. Typical angel ticket sizes are smaller than venture capitalists', so we have found ourselves going to dozens of investor meetings, which has been very time consuming.

What advice would you give to an undergraduate student hoping to pursue a business?

Ask yourself three things. Firstly, what market are you passionate about? Secondly, what market would you be relatively better working in than others? Thirdly, is the market big enough?

If you've got even a glimmer of a business idea, I'd say definitely speak to the UCL Innovation & Enterprise team, they will help you define your objectives.

Also, surround yourself with other startup entrepreneurs, as there are endless opportunities for co-learning. This is why entering an incubator like UCL's Hatchery can really help to increase your chance of success. Discussions with the other talented entrepreneurs at UCL has definitely helped us get over several of the challenges we've faced.

Any idea what's next now that you are live?

We are currently focusing on hiring a back-end developer to help scale the infrastructure of Flair. More details on the role can be found here.

Describe your perfect evening (or weekend) after a long week.

For me, it's watching TV at home with my girlfriend